Posted by Dr. Wade Smith on October 29, 2018
David Garland writes, “while many receive healing in their lives, only a few encounter God in their healing.” Have you encountered God in your journeys of healing?
In Luke 17 we read the story of Jesus healing 10 lepers, but only one encountered God. The lepers stood at a distance, raising their voices as Jesus entered their village, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!”
Their “distance” reminds us that lepers were considered unclean and unwelcome. The word “leprosy” means to “strike down.” Lepers were struck down physically, but also socially as they were shunned by family and friends and forced to find new communities of support and friendship among the outcasts of society. I am reminded of the distance we often feel when we are “stuck down” by life, illness and broken relationships.
With His unsurpassed grace and mercy, Jesus responded by telling the lepers to go and show themselves to the priests. As they went, they were healed, but only one returned to offer thanks to Jesus.
In this short passage, three different words for healing are found. First, the 10 lepers were cleansed. Second, the 10 lepers were healed. Third, only the leper that returned was declared by Jesus to be made well or saved.
All 10 lepers were cleansed from their leprosy. This meant they could return to their families and villages. One theologian said that being healed from leprosy would have been like being raised from the dead. These men were now alive! They had been given a new life. They had been healed socially. They were no longer outcasts, suffering under the stigma of leprosy. They were cleansed!
All 10 of the lepers were healed. This meant they had been healed physically. They no longer suffered with leprosy. In the biblical context leprosy was an umbrella term referring to a variety of skin diseases from psoriasis to Hansen’s Disease. We do not know the extent of the physical suffering of these men, but imagine their lives filled with discomfort, frustration, pain and even the fear of death. But no more, for they had been healed physically.
Finally, only the leper that returned to thank Jesus was made well. Jesus says this man’s faith saved him. Certainly, all the lepers had some type of faith. By faith, they responded to Jesus’ command to go to the priests. Yet, this man’s faith was different. His faith went much deeper. His faith went beyond social cleansing and physical healing. His was a saving faith, a faith that allowed him to encounter God and brought spiritual healing to the deepest part of his being.
Do you feel like you have leprosy? Do you feel like an outcast in your family or place of work? Are you struggling with a disease or illness that keeps you down physically? Do you feel “unclean” inside and out and perceive that others feel the same about you?
Yes, you need to be healed socially. You long for healing and acceptance in your family, marriage and other relationships. Yes, you need to be healed physically. You long for a cure, a surgery, or medical breakthrough to bring healing to your body.
But, ultimately, you realize that these healings are not enough. You need to be saved! You need to be healed from the inside out. You need forgiveness and mercy and redemption. You need the saving faith of the one leper who returned to thank Jesus.
Albert Schweitzer wrote, “healing can lead away from salvation when we only want something from God and not God ‘in the something.’” Schweitzer reminds us that God is not the means to an end (i.e., healing). Rather, God is the end. Our prayers and cries for healing offer us the opportunity to encounter and know God in a deeper way as we struggle with the “leprosies” of our world.
The reality of life and death means that not all of our physical illnesses and diseases will be healed. The reality of sin and brokenness in society reminds us that not all of our relationships will be healed. Yet, the saving faith of this one leper is available to all of us in Jesus Christ.
On your journey of cleansing and healing, is it time to cry out, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on me!” I pray you discover the healing power of an encounter with God. And when you do, don’t forget to return and say ‘thank you.’